Posh NYC Co-Op Tries To Smoke Out Ciggy-Loving Trans Tenant

A snazzy Upper West Side co-op building is looking to evict a 59-year-old trans woman, claiming her excessive smoking is stinking up the place.

Diane Wells has been living in a four-bedroom apartment in Central Park West’s El Dorado—where Marilyn Monroe, Moby and Alec Baldwin have all hung their hat at various times—for about a decade. The unit originally belonged to her mother, reclusive millionaire Constance Cheney, who died in 2007.

Wells has been puffing away the whole time, but it only became a issue apparently in the last year because of what the building says are holes in Wells’ walls that allow the smoke to travel to neighboring units. She’s refused to let management seal the holes, or to use air purifiers bought by her neighbors.

“Wells smokes so heavily that the smoke and odor permeates the elevator and extends as far down as the lobby of the building and at least as high up as the apartments on the 10th floor,” states a complaint filed in Manhattan Supreme Court. “On multiple occasions, the cigarette smoke and odor filled the entry halls on at least the ninth and 10th floors of building, requiring shareholders to traverse a cloud of smoke between the elevator and their apartment entrances.”

Management is seeking an injunction barring Wells from smoking in her apartment until the holes are repaired, and order of eviction. But is this a case of tenant pride or co-op prejudice?

As a veteran of NYC real-estate wars we know co-op boards are notoriously aggressive against tenants that don’t fit their desired “profile.” And it’s a little hard to believe that even a smokestack would permeate 10 floors of a building—plus the lobby and elevators.

Of course there’s a good chance this smoking complaint is, well, a smokescreen: Wells is about $18,000 short on her maintenance fees and owes $42,000 in the escrow account she agreed to maintain after taking over the apartment. She’s also in a bitter dispute with her brother over Cheney’s estate (a Manhattan judge allowed Wells to stay at the El Dorado pending a ruling) and was arrested for assaulting their mother before her death, breaking the elderly woman’s arm.

So is there a whiff of transphobia in the El Dorado’s smoking gripe—or has Wells just burned her bridges?

Photo: Diego Silvestre


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  • Clockwork

    >So is there a whiff of transphobia in the El Dorado’s smoking gripe—or has Wells just burned her bridges?

    Get real, She owes $18,000 + $42,000 and smoking is slowly being banned everywhere (with no focus on race, religion, sexual orientation)

  • Eric in Chicago

    Oh give me a break – first of all smokers are a menace when they aren’t considerate. Now allowing them to plug up the holes puts her in the wrong. Plus she owes money so she’s in the wrong there too. Throw out this smoky deadbeat. My sympathy is with her neighbors and not her. Just because someon is gay or transgendered doesn’t give them a right to be a menace.

  • Effy


    I don’t know why anyone would applaud transphobia on a gay website. I can only assume you are an ass.

  • Benjamin

    @Effy: Um, if you read any trans blogs, you would know that the trans activists are some of the most anti-gay people around other than the rightwing Christians. Trans activists really hate gay rights because they want us all to be working for them on their issues and they really, really hate lesbians for some reason. Screw them.

  • Bruce

    New Yorkers have always been at the mercy of unscrupulous land lords ,who will use any leverage to evict a tenant , if they feel they can charge a higher rent .
    Now , with the closeted Billionaire Mayor , it’s even worse ! His “SIN” tax and no smoking laws are ridiculously , over the top ; ( I quit smoking , so everyone else has to , as well ! )
    Many tenants are currently ,behind in their rents but most are able to work out a feasible plan with landlords . Being Trans should NOT be a factor …but as you can see from previous posts , they are !
    I hope Diego , gets a good lawyer from the LGBT community center and makes an example and sets a p residence , if , in fact , there has been any evidence to prove this is a case of biased discrimination .

  • tqe | Adam

    smoke can easily go through ten floors in no time. Smokers just don”t have the nose to tell…

  • Daniel S

    On the topic of the article, it seems like both sides have escalated thing to the absurd, bottom line tenants pay you bills and let your building make repairs, co-ops don’t make up completely impossible allegations about your tenants to harass them. As to the transphobia in the comments I just don’t understand it. Maybe it is the product of living in a state and an area where queer people really have to stick together but I have never experienced this kind of animosity in real life. Form the time I became active in the queer community I have been a complete supporter of trans rights and of educating myself and the public about trans issues. All my trans friends have been as supportive if not more so of lgb struggles. I feel like a lot of the tension within the queer community is falsely created by bigots, the media, and extremists and doesn’t represent most people.

  • T. Mikel

    When I lived in Manhattan and owner a co-op, the tenant below me smoked continuously and the smell permeated throughout his floor and the ones above and below him. Like Wells, he refused to allow repair work to be done to help prevent the stench from affecting others. Because Wells owes so much to the co-op, there is ample reason to evict her or force her to let the repairs be done. The fact that she is transgender should not affect this case. Finally, what is the purpose of this story? Transgendered people face discrimination on many fronts, but in this instance, the problem seems to be unrelated to her gender status – or is it a requirement that all transgendered people smoke excessively?

  • Chris

    SImply because an action is taken against a trans person, it does nit automatically make that action transphobic. This is just queerty once again trying to create an issue where there is none. The tenant has refused to allow repairs or use air purifiers, she is also thousands of dollars behind on her maintenance. Those issue are real, concrete issues. There is enough real discrimination in the world, don’t make up studs where there is non.

    And @jerry. We get it, you dislike trans people and post the same crap on every post that mentions a trans person. Your constant insistence on posting discredited information is making you look like the person prone to “psychological instability and erratic behavior”. Wouldn’t you be happier on some right wing bigot site where everybody believes the same lies, maybe you are better off hanging out there.

  • Clockwork

    @T. Mikel: >Finally, what is the purpose of this story?

    @Chris: >There is enough real discrimination in the world, don’t make up studs where there is non.

    Great points, this post is more hype from Queerty bloggers – it is nice to see no one is fooled.

  • Chris

    @Chris: Sorry, I shouldn’t be allowed to type on an iPad. I meant “don’t make up stuff*, where there is none” not stud. If making up a stud were possible, I might be first in line.

    @Benjamin. You are right, in regard to your comment to Effy. Some of the most hateful anti gay bigotry comes from the Trans community, but that doesn’t mean Jerry isn’t an ass. Jerry isn’t content to say he doesn’t agree, he immediately claims some sort of expertise and claims all trans people are mentally ill, which is just a silly thing to say. I agree the Trans community has developed an especially vicious activist community that attacks anything that doesn’t include them, they even attacked a T-shirt for saying Legalize:Gay, because is didn’t include anything trans, however while they may sometimes be nasty, vile, hateful people, they are not mentally ill, necessarily.

  • jwrappaport

    Queerty: You’re usually more evenhanded than this. The tenant is in violation of the terms of her lease. There is nothing here to suggest transphobia, only a delinquent tenant who is in violation of the terms of her lease. This is a non-story that seems little more than crying wolf.

  • Mark

    @Chris: I thought that Gender Identity Disorder, which most of them have, is a mental illness that can be found in the DSM IV. Also, injecting artificial testosterone, which FTMs do, can cause mental illness.

    Anyway, it’s probably right that that not all of them are mentally ill. But many are. And the transgender activist group is a nasty, homophobic bunch. LGBs should wish them well and move on.

  • Mike

    I agree with Clockwork. No this is not Transphobia.

    I agree with Mark, a lot of Trans activists are very homophobic, biphobic, and heterophobic, and they hate anyone who is not Trans or who is cisgendered.

  • jj

    Agree with everyone else about the trans-activists only caring about their own cause. We as gay’s and lesbians include them in our “lgbt” because its the right thing to do, and by doing that we are definitely pushing back the gay movement. We do it anyways because we are accepting people. Trans people need to get off their high horse and realize that they need us and we dont need them. America would be much more excepting if it was just LGB.

  • liz

    @Chris [Different person #1 using similar name]
    The “trans advocacy” community, while definitely hateful and crazy, does not represent a majority of transsexuals. They’re just a tiny portion of trans people who are extremely loud and forceful. As a transsexual woman, I’m probably more disgusted (and embarrassed) by them than you guys are. Seriously, they’re infuriating.

    Also, the woman in the article assaulted her mother. I have 0 sympathy.

  • Dianne

    @jj: x1000. Couldn’t have said it better myself. We screwed ourselves when we let “gay” be transformed into LGBT even though Ts are mostly straight. We have lost one goal after another because of that.

    And for all that, we get nothing but hatred from these trans activist nutjobs. I think it is like when you have a hateful, angry person. He will generally take it out on whomever is dumb enough to interact with him. So he winds up abusing the few people who make an effort to be his friend. We have to stop being that abused friend of the trans activists and start focusing on our own lives and our own rights.

  • Dianne

    @liz: Liz, I think that most transsexuals want to live their lives in accordance with their true gender. I have no problem with that at all. In fact, I salute anyone who has the courage to be themselves.

    The transgender activists are giving transsexuals a bad name, making them out to be crazy, hostile, violent and at war with the “gender binary”. Worse, they are linking transsexuals with homosexuality, which is an insult to both transsexuals and gays. A transsexual woman is a woman. She isn’t a “sort of gay guy in a dress”. LGBT asserts a link where none exists. I hope that as a transsexual, you will speak out against LGBT just as all LGBs should do.

  • Bill

    I didn’t know anyone still smoked. But since she does, get her the heck out of there. She has no right to endanger the other tenants health and that of their families.

  • DJ

    I have friends who are Trans who are NOT the crazy trans-activists, they are just normal men and women who happen to be trans, and they don’t hate bisexuals, lesbians, gay men, heteros, or cis people.

    My trans friends do not like the crazy trans activists and think they are silly and professional victims.

  • Clockwork

    @liz: >Seriously, they’re infuriating.

    @Dianne: >transgender activists are giving transsexuals a bad name

    Yes, yes!!!!

    >crazy trans activists and think they are silly and professional victims. !!!!!

    Awesome responses people !!!

  • Gells

    Yes, the loud extremists nearly always overshadow the rest, making the entire group look bad. Unfortunately, it’s happening in this very comment section. “They” the transsexuals. Seems very close to “they” the gays from socially conservative individuals. Then “they” the transgenders. Wish acceptance was a bigger part of human nature (And that applies to far more than only sexualities and gender identities).

    I rather agree that LGB should be seperate from T, since gender and orientation are different and are not inexorably tied. Might append P to it as well for “pansexual.”

    @Dianne As something of a transgender, your generalisations are offending. I’m not saying there aren’t “crazy, hostile, violent…” people, I’m sure there are, though I don’t have experience to say one way or the other. Although I don’t identify as an “activist” and certainly hope I don’t come off that way.

    But it’s difficult when you can’t identify with what a “man is supposed to be” and a “woman is supposed to be” and the entire world is insistent that there are only these two ways of being, divided by a wall and you must be on one side or the other, with LGBT further supporting this idea.

  • Dan

    “But is this a case of tenant pride or co-op prejudice?”

    Clearly you’ve never had the misfortune to live in a large, old apartment building in close proximinty to a heavy indoor smoker. Forget the fees, forget transphobia, she’s a hazard to the health and property values of everyone around her. That alone would…and SHOULD…make anyone a target for eviction. I’ve seen condo values slashed in half because of proximity to smokers. When you’re talking about million dollar properties, it makes perfect sense people would get ruthless.

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